After Happily Ever After

So the new Bridget Jones novel is to be released in October and will be called Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy.

When I first heard about this I was delighted. Bridget Jones’s Diary is one of the original chick lit books, and Bridget is a true chick lit heroine. Plagued with insecurities, far from perfect, dreaming of her Prince Charming, falling for the wrong man…she is someone many young women can relate to, even if not every young woman is lucky enough to have Colin Firth and Hugh Grant fighting over her.  Of course, the films of the novels are so closely intertwined in our hearts with the actual books that everyone’s first question when the news of book three surfaced was, “Will there be another film?” And, inevitably, “Will it have the same cast?”

That’s when I began to have my doubts. No disrespect to either Colin Firth or Hugh Grant but they have aged since The Edge of Reason. A lot. I can’t speak for Renee Zellwegger as I don’t think I’ve seen her in anything new for ages, but it’s been a while. Then the rumours began about the plot of book three and my heart sank. Bridget and Mark are married but are struggling to conceive – Bridget gets pregnant by Daniel Cleaver…what???

Obviously, it’s all speculation. I have no idea whether that particular plot line is pure fantasy from someone with no insider knowledge at all or if it’s straight from Helen Fielding’s pen, but it made me cringe. Bridget getting pregnant by that swine, Cleaver? Breaking Mark Darcy’s heart all over again? Nooooo!

The thing is, even if it isn’t true, there is something depressing about the fact that we will almost without question have to go through a rollercoaster of emotions with Bridget and Mark. This will not be a hearts and flowers book. Our favourite chick lit couple will not be allowed to be happy. The very nature of a romance novel means they will be tormented and tortured, thrown apart, have obstacles chucked in their path like grenades and have their hearts broken. I don’t like it.

When Mark and Bridget fell into each other’s arms at the end of The Edge of Reason, that was it. Job done. Happily Ever After. That’s how we learn about romance as children isn’t it? Cinderella was swept off her feet by Prince Charming. Snow White was saved by the handsome prince. Sleeping Beauty was awakened with a kiss. They all lived happily ever after. There was no sequel to tell us that Cinders cheated on the Prince because he couldn’t get her up the duff and she’d always had a sneaky crush on Buttons. There was no revelation in Snow White that the huntsman had saved her life because he secretly fancied her and, having confessed his love for her at the wedding, they began a sneaky affair behind the handsome prince’s back. Sleeping Beauty never announced she was buggering off back to bed because she was sick of her hubby leaving his socks on the bedroom floor and he spent too much time at work and she felt neglected. Oh no, happy ever after meant just that.

There are some who think The Edge of Reason was a step too far. Bridget had found her Mr Darcy in book one and it should have been left at that. Jane Austen, after all, never felt the need to write Pride and Prejudice: Trouble at Pemberley, (although many other writers have!)  Charlotte Bronte never wrote Jane Eyre: Married with Kids. So is it wise to revisit a couple after they have found their “happy ever after”?

Some fictional couples are revisited but as secondary characters in subsequent novels in a series. For instance, Jo Carnegie writes about the featured couple Benedict and Caro in several of her Churchminster novels, but they are mostly subplots after taking centre stage in book one. Jilly Cooper revives Rupert Campbell-Black in most of her Rutshire novels but again, as background. Once he had found happiness with Taggie she never pulled them apart again.

It can work, though. Tash and Hugo in Fiona Walker’s novels are two of my favourite characters in chick lit. Their story seemed to end quite happily in Well Groomed. Then, some years later, Fiona revisited them in Kiss and Tell. The perfect couple were put under extraordinary pressure. They didn’t just have rocks thrown at them, they had massive boulders hurled in their direction. They were torn apart, tormented and tortured by the wicked Ms Walker. And it worked. I loved it. It’s still my favourite book of Fiona’s. So, done right, it can be successful.

There are other books which finish with a teasing “happy for now” rather than a “happy ever after”. Sarah Tranter’s No Such Thing As Immortality, for example, leaves many questions unanswered and, although you just know that Nate and Rowan are meant for each other, you’re still not sure how it’s all going to pan out, what’s really going on, and if they can make it work. Books like this are ripe for a sequel and I’m delighted to report that there will be one.

But when the story is so clearly tied up neatly, as in Bridget Jones’s case, do we really want to know what happens next and watch as the magic starts to fade and our loved up couple fall apart again? Or would we prefer to close the book and keep them safe in our heads, imagining their happy ever after is just that?

I have mixed feelings about Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy. In my mind Bridget and Mark have been living in bliss for fourteen long years and I don’t want that illusion spoiled. On the other hand, it’s a chance to meet up again with old friends, find out what they’ve really been up to, see how much they’ve changed and how they are coping with the demands of modern life. The horrific thing is, though, that Bridget must be now heading towards her fifties. Definitely more hen lit than chick lit now…

One thing is for certain, whatever my feelings, I’ll be buying it. I suspect it will be a best-seller. Whether it will be a hit with the readers is another question entirely.   What do you think? Will you be buying it? Would you rather leave Mark and Bridget in the world of your imagination? Or have you read other books that revisit couples you have loved in the past and been disappointed or delighted? Do let me know your opinion!

Have a great week x

8 thoughts on “After Happily Ever After

  1. Hi Sharon, well put! As I tweeted the other day, I like my happily ever afters! I’m not sure I’ll be rushing out to read this until I hear what other people think, I’ve heard rumours too and I’m rather torn about the whole thing. I gave up watching Soaps long ago because I couldn’t stand investing my time and emotions into a ‘will they/won’t they’ story-line, only to have it all end in heartbreak three months down the line. I write fiction, dammit, I don’t want real life to spoil an ending!

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  2. Hi, Val. I totally understand what you mean about the soaps. I called time on Eastenders a while ago after the way they totally destroyed Kat and Alfie. I mean, they rode off into the sunset together and for years we fondly imagined them all loved up abroad and living the dream. Then they come back. Alfie’s been in prison and Kat’s pregnant to Alfie’s cousin. Then they row constantly, Kat repeatedly cheats on her devoted husband, finally she “falls in love” with Toad of Toad Hall! Too much to cope with. So I do worry about what Bridget will be dealing with…especially since I’ve just read online that she’s back in the dating game and it’s not certain either Daniel or Mark feature in her life any more. Noooo! Oh well, we shall see. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

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  3. Good point ladies. I must be a case of arrested development because I love a great rom com. I liked the original Bridget books because they were great escapism. (This isn’t a plug, BTW) I like to write about heroines in the mid twenties and heroes in their early thirties – although I am neither of those things. If someone was actually writing hen lit I enjoyed, I would read it. The one thing about being self-pubb’d is that I can write the books I’d like to read. If what you’ve both said about BJ#3, count me out. I hate soap operas, so perhaps that’s why I don’t like miserable books. One episode of ‘Enders and I’ve had it !!

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  4. Thanks for dropping by, Lizzie. I love a good rom com, too. Life is miserable enough without watching or reading more of it. I love pure escapist, romantic fairy tales with a good dollop of humour thrown in for good measure. And I agree about the ages, too. It’s weird because I’m getting very decrepit myself but I do love to read about young love…I think it’s nice to inhabit the mind of a twenty or thirtysomething for a while and forget all about the fact that you’re almost eligible for guaranteed life insurance plans! Eastenders makes me more depressed than I can say. I used to watch it for the Massoods who were my favourite family, by far, until all the humour vanished and they were hit with tragedy after tragedy until they were destroyed. I can’t be doing with it. I still watch Corrie because it makes me laugh. As for Bridget Jones, well, we can only wait and see. I’m sure she will have yet another happy ending but the trouble is after two previous false ones I may be thinking “hmm, and how long is it going to last this time?” Poor old Bridget…well, poor middle aged Bridget 🙂 x

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  5. Hi Sharon, Lovely to meet you earlier and, as you can see, I’ve found your blog! I’m not sure BJ3 is a good idea. I liked that Bridget and Mark were together and I don’t want to know that it all went wrong. I can’t help feeling that if Helen Fielding wanted to write a book about what it’s like to date as in your forties then she could have found a new heroine and left her readers with the warm glow of Bridget and Mark’s happy ever after. So like Valerie I think I’ll be waiting to see what other people think before I rush out to buy it. Alex x

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    • Hello Alex! Glad you found me and thanks for commenting. I agree. I thought the same thing…Helen Fielding should have left Bridget and Mark alone and explored new characters. On the other hand, I know perfectly well that I will buy it because I won’t be able to resist catching up with them, and I just hope and pray that they are in a happy place by the end of the book. Still think I will lose faith that their happy ever after will really be more than happy for now…shame. Lovely to meet you, too by the way! xx

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  6. The entire pregnancy confusion thing was done in the 2005-2006 column series (which may not figure into the book at all, but we’ll see)–and I don’t think it was well-received by fans then. From interviews I’ve read and seen (and particularly ones from the Book Expo (BEA) at the beginning of June), this sounds like a whole new story conceived (no pun intended) within the last year or so, and in one interview from BEA she mentions ‘children’ (plural). I’ve known for a while another book was in the works, but I am more excited than I have been after seeing this most recent press.

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    • Ah, well that explains where that rumour came from! Interesting…I really hope that it doesn’t feature in the book. I can’t think of a worse plotline, frankly. Where on earth could Mark and Bridget go from there if she cheats on him with Daniel Cleaver, of all people! And Mark doesn’t strike me as the kind of man who would forgive and forget. Anyway, Bridget wouldn’t do that. I hope Helen Fielding is kind and true to her characters. Having said that, they are her characters and I guess she can do what she likes with them! 🙂 I think a lot of people have invested a lot in Bridget Jones…we want a happy ending! Thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment x

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